Top Hong Kong trainer Tony Cruz and jockey Neil Callan teamed up to claim their first victories in the G1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin with Blazing Speed (6g Dylan Thomas-Leukippids, by Sadler’s Wells) on Sunday.
The son of Dylan Thomas, winner of the G2 Jockey Club Cup in November, had a dream run in the HK$20 million 2,000-metre contest. He sprang from the gate and tucked in to race off the fence just fore of mid rank. As the field of 12 swung into the straight, Callan crouched down into the drive to win by two lengths from Japanese raider Staphanos.
“I’ve been trying very hard to win this race,” said Cruz. “I managed to do it a few times as a jockey but to do it now as a trainer, I’m very happy about it. I told Neil to ride a very patient race, get in midfield, find cover and wait for the straight. He rode a perfect race.”
Callan paid tribute to his mount and said:”He’s been a champion for me. I kept him calm and relaxed and from the gate he jumped great. I couldn’t believe it, I landed in my position so early, so quickly, and the rest was just letting him relax, get a rhythm. Tony always says to me ‘just wait for the straight, wait for the straight’ so I counted to 10 and waited for the straight, but when I let him down I thought ‘well he’ll take a bit of getting now’.
“Over 2,000m, that’s probably the most electric turn of foot he has. The race was a little bit stop-start but it got going and slowed down and got going again at the right time for me so it was perfect!”
Cruz will now point Blazing Speed, bred in Britain by Joseph Sankey, at the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) at Sha Tin next month. Blazing Speed won that final leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown series last season, having also won the first leg, the Stewards’ Cup (1,600m), the previous January.
“He’s a very straightforward horse – as easy as he appears,” said the trainer. “We’ll definitely go to the Champions & Chater Cup now, the race he won last year. We could programme for elsewhere as well.”
The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said: “This afternoon’s APQEII Cup was a very exciting race featuring top-class international contenders and the result speaks for itself with Blazing Speed an impressive winner, the Japanese horse finishing second, the Australian horse third and Designs On Rome fourth. Looking at the ratings, it is a satisfactory result for a race that is one of the top 20 Group 1 races in the world.
“The APQEII Cup’s elite position as an international race has been enhanced this afternoon. Today’s occasion shows that our vision of bringing international racing to Hong Kong is firmly on track.”